St. Thomas’ Hospital History


Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 20.03.24
In 1922 the area to the east of the KGV was used for market gardening upto the current forestline. In the early 40’s this area was allocated for a new emergency hospital.  Originally known as the Third Australian (Servicemen’s’) General Hospital, the wooden hutted complex was greatly expanded in 1941 (360 beds) for the evacuation of patients and staff of St. Thomas’ Hospital Lambeth after extensive bomb damage in London.

Lambethbomb1940

Lambeth block A bomb damage with County Hall in background

Their medical school was also evacuated, sharing accommodation at Charterhouse School and The Manor House near Charterhouse, Applegarth Godalming and Sunnydown Hogs Back. The site provided safe accommodation for all types of patient whilst the war continued. (Hydestile was hit by one bomb close to the crossroads on 19th December 1940).  

The site was strictly separated from the adjacent KGV by a chainlink fence. The huts lasted well beyond their intended lifespan and many were used for a variety of roles including operating theatre, chapel, children’s ward, engineering workshops etc. The brick buildings included pharmacy, path lab and staff canteen. The Nissen hut casualty department was demolished in the 1970’s.

St. Thomas’ retained the Hydestile complex after the war even after returning to London but finally left the site in 1968. The site is now levelled, although the old entrance remains with remnants of signs on the bank.

Gallery of images from archive:

Two poems sum up the opinions of the medical students who were relocated to Hydestile in the early 40’s because of the widespread damage in Lambeth:

At St. Thomas’ amid the fray

Life for all was grim and gay,

The blitz led to a great displacement

For one and all slept in the basement.

But trouble was not far away.

They bombed us by night, they bombed us by day,

Thus thrice we were directly hit

And lasted but a week of it.

Ere the blows had but occurred

Guided by Wyatt’s kindly word

We students all with one accord

Sallied forth to Guildford.

Our arrival at the ancient City

Filled the local folk with genuine pity,

Who preferring us to refugees,

Quickly put us at our ease.

And now that we have settled down,

And grown accustomed to the town,

We find that, far from being alarming,

The people here are very charming.

Work and play can here agree,

And we do dancing and A.R.P.

Thus our sad extermination

Has had a pleasant compensation.

Uncredited Medical Student,

St Thomas’ Hospital Gazette   February 1941

St Thomas’ at Hydestile stands in snowy isolation,

A string of superheated wards linked by refrigeration,

Its learned guise, and nurses wise, delight all who perceive it.

It pleases too the student, who knows well he’s soon to leave it.

The healthy aspect of the site, the staff and sisters prudent,

All help the patient to survive the o’er attentive student.

The grassy sward between each ward is used for beds when warmer.

I wouldn’t know. three feet of snow have always hid the former.

The canteen here is working well, run by a gracious team,

Whose daily variations make upon a single theme.

This willing troupe serves rolls and soup, the next will ring the changes,

And levy toll on soup and roll, and thus the menu changes.

Our patients come two days a week by convoy from the city,

And should they number less and less, the more and more’s the pity.

Their places here, it would appear, the chicken-pox does smother.

And nearly half the nursing staff is used to nurse the other.

And if you’re feeling out of sorts and crawling with infection,

Pop into Hydestile any day, and by astute detection,

We’ll catch each germ, and then exterminate and thwart ’em.

But if not cured, then rest assured, you’ll get a fine post-mortem.

Uncredited Medical Student,

St Thomas’ Hospital Gazette   February 1941

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *